Ministry Burnout Statistics

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Statistics on pastoral burnout compiled by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD) and Fuller Seminary between the last 1980s and late 1990s were revisited and updated in 2005-06 with a sample group of 1,050 pastors. (Source: Research complied by Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. with FASICLD). They found that

  • 100% had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • 90% stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • 89% had considered leaving the ministry at one time. (57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go-including secular work).
  • 81% said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (and these were Reformed and Evangelical pastors–not the mainline pastors!).
  • 77% felt they did not have a good marriage.
  • 75%felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others.
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. (This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study).
  • 71% stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • 38% said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
  • 26% said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
  • 23% said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!

Leadership Journal (Winter 2014) – Readers were polled on their response to the question, “Have you experienced burnout in your ministry?” Answers?

  • 18.2% – Yes, I’m friend to a crisp right now.
  • 28.4% – Yes, but I’m learning to endure despite the heat.
  • 26.5% – Yes, in the past, but I made significant changes and it’s gone now.
  • 17.6% – I’m not sure if what I had was burnout or something else.
  • 9.3% – No, I’ve never been burned out.

NY Time Article (8/2/2010) – “Taking a Break from the Lord’s Work” on the reality of clergy burnout and the need for ministers to take Sabbath and vacation time away from the work.

CNNMoney.com (10/29/2009) posted an article listing 15 “Stressful Jobs That Pay Badly.” Included in this list are #5 “Music Ministry Director” and #10 “Minister.”

Scot McKnight listed some statistics on “Burnout for Pastors” he drew from London and Wiseman’s Pastors at Greater Risk (2003).

THE STATS

The American Church

*Churchgoers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks
*Pastors who work fewer than 50 hours a week are 35 percent more likely to be terminated.
*87 percent of Protestant churches have full-time paid pastors.
*50 percent of all congregations in the United States are either plateauing or declining
*Two-thirds of pastors reported that their congregation experienced a conflict during the past two years; more than 20 percent of those were significant enough that members left the congregation
*The typical pastor has his/her greatest ministry impact at a church in years 5 through 14 of his pastorate; unfortunately, the average pastor lasts only five years at a church.

The Upside – Pastor’s Life in the Church

*86 percent of pastors said they’d choose ministry as their career if they had it to do over
*87 percent of pastors say a strong sense of God’s call is why they chose ministry as a career
*91 percent of pastors feel very satisfied about being in ministry;
*75 percent say they want to stay in ministry

The Downside – Pastor’s Life in the Church
*90 percent of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
*80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively
*75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
*50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
*40 percent report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
*40 percent of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
*19 percent of pastors indicate that they’d been forced out of ministry at least once during their ministry; another 6 percent said they’d been fired from a ministry position

Marriage and Family
*33 percent of pastors confess “inappropriate” sexual behavior with someone in the church
*20 percent of pastors say they view pornography at least once a month
*According to Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries Division, approximately 20 percent of the monthly calls to their pastoral care line deal with sexual misconduct and pornography
*20 percent of pastors admit to having had an affair while in the ministry
*12 percent of pastors say that since they’ve been in ministry, they’ve had sexual intercourse with someone other than their spouse,
*51 percent of pastors say that Internet pornography is a possible temptation for them; 37 percent admit that it’s a current struggle
*13 percent of pastors have been divorced
*48 percent of pastors think being in ministry is hazardous to family well-being
*33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family
*80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with spouse
*58 percent of pastors indicate that their spouse works either part-time or fulltime outside the home because the family need the income
*56 percent of pastors’ wives say they that they have no close friends
*45 percent of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and family is physical, emotional, mental and spiritual burnout
*66 percent of pastors and their families feel pressure to model the ideal family to their congregations and communities
*53 percent of pastors spend time off from pastors’ duties to do activities with their families; *21 percent spend time with hobbies or physical tasks

Longevity/Spiritual Health
*55 percent of pastors indicate that they’re a member of a small group that provides support and holds them accountable
*32 percent of pastors say that reading is the activity that provides sustained renewal in their spirit;
*31 percent say that renewal comes from being alone
*50 percent of pastors say they’d see another pastor if they felt the need fro personal counseling;
*20.5 indicate they’d see no one
*70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend

Preparation
*31 percent of pastors indicated that conflict management was lacking in their seminary or Bible college training
*90 percent feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands

Personal Health
*45.5 percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry
*70 percent say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out
*57 percent of pastors do not have a regularly scheduled and implemented exercise routine
*56 percent of pastors regularly take off one day each week; 21 percent say that they do not get any days off

The Culture
*53 percent of Americans say the nation’s moral problems are greater than the nation’s economic problems.
*78 percent of Americans rate the state of moral values in the United States as weak or very weak
*64 percent of adults say that truth is relative to the person and their circumstances
*44 percent of Americans who declare themselves to be Christians believe that Jesus sinned during His time on earth

Anne Jackson has recently published Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan 2009). It has a lot of useful statistics and helpful counsel for someone living with symptoms of burnout.

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19 thoughts on “Ministry Burnout Statistics

  1. How recent are these (concerning pastors health)… I have read these so often I am almost numb to them… The “car salesman” one is misleading. The list actually has “tele-evangelist”. I do not think most of us qualify, even if we have been a contestant on a reality show ; ) I want us to understand the pressures but not exaggerate it either.

    I would like to know how recent and how the research was done… I work so often with pastors I know the real stories. I fear more recent stats (especially among church planters) would be worse. I am hoping the stats are actually current or at least getting close to keeping up.

    • Morning, Troy. The stats have been around a while. I found a couple of recent reports that I’ll use to revise this page. My own experience echoes yours. I’m quite certain that things have not improved. Every single day someone stumbles upon this page through a Google search for “burnout”, “ministry burnout”, “pastoral burnout”, etc. Thanks for the heads up.

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  4. I think the saddest thing is how few pastors have a close friend. Having a close spiritual companion would really help with the processing of life, accountability, keeping it real, freedom, healing, etc. The friendships I have here in Kazakhstan have been very, very life-giving and life-changing in a good way.

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